Marine Biology - Course Advice - Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Studying Marine Biology at Canterbury

OceanMarine Biology is the science of the sea. Understanding and appreciating the complex biological and ecological interactions of organisms in the oceans requires a good understanding of the ecosystem connections, from the depths of the open oceans to the coastal interface of land and sea.

Marine biologists are essential to the modern world as resources are increasingly over-used, and the oceans are affected by trade, travel and recreation.

The sustainability and conservation of marine biodiversity is essential to the health of the planet and conservation of core human values. We urgently need people with knowledge of marine biology who can contribute to this goal.

The Kaikoura Marine Environment is a sentinel focus area for our teaching and research, providing the opportunity for students to gain exposure to key elements of New Zealand’s complex marine ecosystems, while gaining experience in data management, analysis and writing of scientific reports.

Career paths

Specialising in Marine Biology and Ecology provides suitable training for employment as a marine scientist in organisations such the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the Cawthron Institute, Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Primary Industry (fisheries or biosecurity research), as well as consultancy roles in Regional Councils and engineering consultant companies. In addition, Marine Biology is a great background field for teachers and environmentally aware citizens.


  • BSc (Hons) - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers and a research project.
  • PGDipSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers.
  • MSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers (part I), followed by a one year research project (part II), written up as a thesis.
  • PhD - Students complete a 3 year research project written up as a thesis. Entry is after successful completion of either BSc(Hons) or an MSc.

Planning Your Degree

Below is a guide to help you select courses that will give you a well rounded degree in marine biology.

Year 1



  • CHEM 111 Chemical Principles and Processes [1]
  • BCHM 112 Structure and Reactivity in Chemistry and Biochemistry [1] (aka CHEM 112)
  • GEOG 106 Global Environmental Change
  • GEOL 111 Planet Earth: An Introduction to Geology
  • GEOL 115 The Dynamic Earth System
  • MATH 101 Methods of Mathematics [2]
  • SCIM 101 Science, Maori and Indigenous Knowledge

Year 2



  • BIOL 210 Vertebrate Biology
  • BIOL 250 Principles of Animal Physiology
  • BIOL 253 Cell Biology 1
  • BIOL 272 Principles of Animal Behaviour
  • BIOL 273 New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity
  • GEOG 201 Environmental Processes: Principles and Applications
  • GEOG 205 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Year 3


  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists [3]
  • BIOL 375 Freshwater Ecosystems
  • BIOL 377 Global Change and Biosecurity
  • BIOL 384 Marine Ecosystems


[1] If you have fewer than 14 credits of NCEA level 3 chemistry take CHEM 114 before starting BCHM/CHEM 112.
[2] MATH101 is strongly recommended unless you have good NCEA level 3 maths credits.
[3] BIOL309 is essential for postgraduate biology.